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Table Talk: Matot-Massei Print E-mail

Table Talk: Rabbi Simcha Weinberg- The Foundation StoneUnsoiled Speech: “If a man takes a vow to God or swears an oath to establish a prohibition upon himself, he shall not desecrate his word. According to whatever comes from his mouth shall he do.” (Numbers 30:3) The Talmud (Nedarim 8a) asks: “From where in the Bible do we derive that one may take an oath that he will fulfill a Mitzvah of the Torah? “I have sworn, and I will fulfill, to keep Your righteous ordinances.” (Psalms 119:106) The Rosh rules that we are not concerned that he will stumble and fail to keep his oath. The Binah La’Ittim (Derush 67) elaborates and explains that he need not worry that he will not be able to keep his oath, IF, and only if, he has never asked to be released of an oath or promise. Only such a person may rely on Divine assistance to keep this oath.  He reads the first verse as “If he has never desecrated his word – God will help him do whatever comes out of his mouth.” There are many who believe that only such a person can merit that God will answer all his prayers! Discuss and choose one type of speech that each person at the Shabbat table can choose on which to focus over the following week in order to enhance his/her quality of speech.

What Price Action?
“God spoke to Moshe saying: ‘Take vengeance for the Children of Israel against the Midianites, afterward you will be gathered unto your people.” (Numbers31:1-2) Although God told Moshe that he would die after this war, he did not delay. He proceeded with alacrity to carry out God’s instructions. (Rashi, Verse 3) We find a similar commitment in the Cohanim who served in the Temple. Although they knew that whoever brought the Azazel goat to be thrown off the mountain would not live out the year; they insisted on taking the animal themselves. (Talmud, Yoma 66a; See Chizkuni on Leviticus 16:1, and Maharsha on Yoma 66a) Some of the people who went into the battle against Midian were forced; they did not want Moshe to die. (Rashi)  Only the Levites entered the battle without hesitation. (Gerer Rebbe)  This implies that Moshe informed the people that he would die immediately after this battle. Why did he tell them? Did he want them to hesitate, as Rashi describes some of them doing? Was he challenging them to follow God’s instructions no matter the cost?  How would you have reacted?

How Practical Shall We Be?
“These are the journeys of the Children of Israel.” (Numbers 33:1) The Midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 23:1) teaches: May one who is being chased by dangerous people run away even on Shabbat? Our Rabbis taught that one who must escape for his life may violate the Shabbat. Our Sages taught that the Elders of Tzippori received threatening letters from the Roman authorities. They went to consult with Rabbi Elazar ben Perata: “Rebbi, we have received threatening letters from the government. Shall we run away?” The great rabbi did not want to explicitly instruct them to run, so he said instead: “Why do you consult me? Ask Jacob, Moshe and King David. Of Jacob it says, “And Jacob ran away.” (Hosea 12:13) Moses ran away: “And Moshe fled.” (Exodus 2:15) So too, King David fled: “And David fled and escaped.” (Samuel I 19:18) In fact, Isaiah says: “Go, my people, enter your rooms and close your doors behind you.” (Isaiah 26:20) The Holy One, Blessed is He, says to Israel: “These mighty ones of Israel had to run, but for 40 years in the desert I did not allow you to be placed in a situation that would force you to flee.” Were Jacob, Moshe and David lacking in their trust in God when they ran for their lives? When must we trust in God and when must we focus on being practical? Hint: Why did Rabbi Elazar hesitate to answer directly?
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